July 14, 2010

"Tough decisions"

I have a fondness for the ancient Chinese philosopher known in the West as Confucius (aka Kong zi or K'ung-tzu). When he was asked what he would do first if given a position of influence in a government, he said he'd start with "the rectification of names," which kind of means words more into line with reality. George Orwell made the same point in the mid 20th century.

Certain words are often over-used in the realm of politics and could use a little rectification. One example of this is the expression "tough decisions," which some politicians are proud to have made. Generally, a tough decision is one that sticks it to the working class, the poor or relatively underprivileged, usually by cutting some program which puts some resources in their direction.

These days, such "tough decisions" involve things like shafting the unemployed.

As Tony Judt put it in his recent book Ill Fares the Land,

These days, we take pride in being tough enough to inflict pain on others. If an older usage were still in force, whereby being tough consisted of enduring pain rather than imposing it on others, we should perhaps think twice before so callously valuing efficiency over compassion.

The term used around here for decisions that inflict punishment on the powerless is a little different. It's a compound word, the first part of which is "chicken" and the last is best left to the Gentle Reader's imagination.

TALKING SENSE. Here's a good editorial from the Washington Post about the need for Congress to act on unemployment insurance and aid to states.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, 38 Americans have lost unemployment benefits every minute since June 2.

A MODEST PROPOSAL. Economist Dean Baker suggest we treat corporate irresponsibility the same way we do drunk driving.



Elizabeth Gaucher said...

The gloves are off today, eh? Good. Those are good days.

El Cabrero said...

Gloves impede proper technique.